It is a disaster that has been described by at least one Los Angeles city official as “the equivalent of the BP oil spill, except on land.” Since late October 2015, natural gas has been spewing into the air in the Aliso Canyon/Porter Ranch neighborhood about 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles, sickening residents and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. The uncapped well is also pouring greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Property values have been diminished by the ongoing leak as well as the threat of future leaks from the same facility.
Faced with growing public anger and no short-term fix for the leak, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on January 6, 2016. Porter Ranch is a community of about 30,000 residents at the edge of the San Fernando Valley. 2,800 households have been relocated, and Southern California Gas executives are trying to find temporary homes for another 1,700. Natural gas consists mostly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Chemicals added to the natural gas are intended to allow residential users to detect a gas leak, but when present in the large quantities found in Aliso Canyon, these same chemicals are irritants that make people sick. Porter Ranch families have had to leave because of the smell and the unhealthy side effects of the chemicals, including nosebleeds, headaches and dizziness.
“This is one of the most disruptive, catastrophic environmental events that I’ve seen. It’s a truly chaotic crisis,” said Mitch Englander, the LA city councilman who represents Porter Ranch.
Early efforts to halt the leak or end the well by injecting liquids into it failed. Now SoCalGas is aiming its efforts at a relief well, a solution which would allow control liquids to be injected much farther down. Drilling on that relief well began in early December, and is on schedule for completion in late February.
In the meantime, residents of Porter Ranch are scared, and for many the suffering goes beyond emotional distress and into physical illness. According to the Times, more than 4,500 families have moved out or plan to do so while efforts continue to plug the leak. As the crisis continues, lawmakers are trying to focus additional efforts on making sure leak tragedies of this kind don’t happen again.
National Environmental Safety and Toxic Injury Attorneys
Lieff Cabraser is a national plaintiffs firm with the experience, expertise, and financial resources to thoroughly investigate environmental cases and hold defendants accountable. We have successfully prosecuted cases against many of the world’s most powerful corporations, obtaining compensation for families and property owners harmed by oil spills, gas leaks, and other toxic environmental exposures.
If you or a family member have been injured as a result of the months-long natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, please contact us to discuss your case. There is no cost or obligation for our review, and any information you provide will be held strictly confidential.